Orlando police officer Donald LaCentra knew PINAC reporter Jeff Gray wasn’t breaking any laws when he stood outside the police department in January with his video camera, conducting one of his notorious First Amendment audits.
But LaCentra also knew he could manufacture probable cause to pull him over after Gray drove off after refusing to provide his identification.
LaCentra told Gray that he had pulled him over for an “obstructed tag” because Gray had a police union badge that are frequently used by cops and their friends and family members to let other cops know that they should be treated above the law – not that it has ever worked for Gray who is considered Public Enemy Number One in the state of Florida.
But LaCentra contradicted himself in his arrest report by saying he had run Gray’s license plate prior to pulling him over and discovered he had a suspended drivers license.
However, in a 2011 newsletter from the Florida State Attorney’s Office, if a cop is able to read the license plate in its entirety, then he has no grounds to pull him over.
But that excuse is frequently used by cops in Florida to pull people over as they have done to Michael Burns from Central Florida Cop Block on two occasions after he had stopped to video record them pulling somebody else over, including one case that he beat in court wearing a “Fuck the Police” t-shirt.
Burns’ latest video is at the bottom of the article, below Gray’s video on his case dismissal from last week, allowing Gray to proceed with a federal lawsuit against the Orlando Police Department.
The key paragraph from page 8 of the State Attorney’s newsletter is posted below.
Nevertheless, Gray’s license was never suspended. The former truck driver’s commercial license was disqualified, making it illegal for him to operate a commercial vehicle as he had done for two decades, but legal for him to drive a noncommercial vehicle.
Even the Lawtey Police Department, who had arrested Gray earlier in the week, ended up releasing him without incarcerating him when they decided to research the matter fully.
But LaCentra wanted to teach Gray a lesson because the differences should be obvious to cops who are supposedly trained to decipher between a suspended drivers license, forbidding drivers from operating any vehicle, and a disqualified commercial drivers license, forbidding drivers from operating a commercial vehicle.
In fact, the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles sent out a memo to all law enforcement agencies in the state last year, clearly informing them of the distinction as you can read below.
LaCentra should also have known that he had no legal right to run Gray’s license plate in the first place considering he did not have any reasonable suspicion that Gray had violated the law.
Especially considering the Orlando Police Department issued a directive to its officers last year that video recording buildings from a public area is legal, which you can also read below. That policy was created after Orlando police arrested a man in 2013 for video recording them in public. The man settled for $15,000 in December.
The full policy can be read here.
Running Gray’s license plate through the Driver and Vehicle Information Database (DAVID) when he knew Gray had not violated any law was done out of spite and not for a valid law enforcement purpose, although as we have learned, this law is frequently abused by cops, who rarely face discipline for abusing the privilege of accessing people’s records through the database.
As you read below, Orlando Police Chief Val Demings issued a memo to officers in 2009 reminding them not to abuse the system.
Gray was represented by attorney Eric Friday, who will be handling his upcoming civil suit.